Flu season is soon to be in full swing in the UK, with October marking the beginning of the epidemic. While the virus can feel like a common cold to many people, it can pose serious health risks to certain groups. The illness can leave people exposed to developing complications such as pneumonia. Flu vaccines are free of charge for those in vulnerable groups – here is a list of those eligible.
The injected flu vaccine is offered free of charge on the NHS to people who are at risk.
These include people who are:
- 65 years old or over
- Have certain medical conditions
- Living in a long-stay residential care home or another long-stay care facility
- Receive a carer’s allowance, or who are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if they fall ill
- Frontline health and social care workers are also eligible to receive the flu vaccine. It’s an employer’s responsibility to arrange and pay for this vaccine.
A person may also be able to have the flu vaccine at their GP surgery or a local pharmacy offering the service if they’re a frontline health or social care worker employed by a:
- Registered residential care or nursing home
- Registered homecare organisation
The flu vaccine is free on the NHS for:
- Children over the age of six months with a long-term health condition
- Children aged two and three years on 31 August 2019 (that is, born between 1st September 2015 and 31 August 2017)
- Children in primary school
How effective is the flu vaccine?
According to Dr Nicola Read, Clinical Fellow at Bupa UK, it is hard to say how effective the flu vaccine is. “This is because each year there are different dominant strains or ‘types’ of flu, so the vaccine changes each year to try to match this,” she said.
Having the flu vaccine doesn’t guarantee that a person won’t catch the flu in winter, but it will reduce their risk of getting ill. “Having the flu vaccine each year will give you the best chance of protection,” she said.
When’s the best time to get the flu vaccine?
As Dr Read explained: “Having the flu vaccine will cover you for one season. So it’s important to have the vaccine each year at the beginning of autumn – around October-November time.”
A person can still get the flu vaccine later in winter if they’ve forgotten to book their appointment earlier in the year, she added.
Flu vaccine side effects
According to the NHS, After the flu vaccination, a person may get a mild fever and slight muscle aches for a day or so.
Some people may have a sore arm after vaccination. “For example, if you’re aged 65 or over and having the adjuvanted flu vaccine,” explained the health site.
The NHS recommends trying these tips to ease the discomfort:
Continue to move the arm regularly – do not let it get stiff and sore
Take a painkiller, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen – pregnant women should not take ibuprofen unless a doctor recommends and prescribes it
“Do not give aspirin to children under 16,” the health body warned.
Find out how much a flu job costs here.